Styx headed this way with REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent
Just as so many veteran rockers have found, Styx knows there are real drawbacks to trying to make new records. For one thing, it’s become next to impossible for them to get new songs on the radio, cutting out what once was the best way for rock groups to get heard and sell albums.
“Radio, particularly classic rock radio, won’t touch new music by us,” James Young, guitarist/singer in Styx, says.
There’s also a financial disincentive to making new albums, he adds. It means spending money for studio time, a producer and other things while taking time off from touring, which for most bands is now the primary source of income.
So it’s been hard in recent years to justify making new albums when selling even 100,000 copies of a CD is a considerable achievement.
That’s tough to accept for a band such as Styx, which at its peak had four straight albums top 2 million copies sold —“The Grand Illusion” (1977), “Pieces of Eight” (1978), “Cornerstone” (1979) and “Paradise Theatre” (1981).
The band’s last studio album of original material, however, — “Cyclorama” in 2003 — barely made a blip on charts. Its most recent releases have been “Big Bang Theory,” a 2010 album of cover tunes, and two EPs, “Regeneration: Volume 1” and “Regeneration: Volume 2,” which in addition to Mr. Young featured the current lineup of keyboardist/ singer Lawrence Gowan, guitarist/ singer Tommy Shaw, drummer Todd Sucherman and bassist Ricky Phillips, re-recording its versions of songs from the Styx back catalog.
Despite all that, a new Styx album might happen in the not-too-distant future, Mr. Young says, because he’s seeing a viable way to get their music noticed by large numbers of potential fans.
“I honestly believe, not only for classic artists but for artists of all stripes, more and more it’s about creating one great song with a visual thing that can get on the Internet and perhaps go worldwide and all of a sudden ignite a viral media frenzy kind of a thing.
“That’s the way to really get attention.”
The tools are there, he adds. “We just have to figure out exactly what the heck we want to do with them.”
As it is, he’s already seeing that Internet video channels such as YouTube have a real impact in introducing Styx to new, younger listeners and growing the band’s fan base.
“The Internet has given us immediate accessibility,” he says. That same accessibility, he adds, allows new fans to spread the word among potential new listeners.
Styx fans, new and old, are lining up to see the band live with REO Speedwagon and Ted Nugent for the second straight year on a tour called the “Midwest Rock ’n’ Roll Express.” The tour stops at Germain Arena on Wednesday, May 1.
Mr. Young says the Styx and REO pairing is a package that works. “I think both bands had No. 1 albums in 1981, and you add the wild card of the Motor City Madman, the shy, retiring, politically neutral Mr. Ted Nugent … the world’s greatest self-promoter, and it just helps draw attention to what we’re doing.” ¦